6 Ways To Build Resilience And Adapt To The Stresses In Farming

A key focus in this year’s Positive Farmers conference was mental resilience towards the inevitable stressors that each farmer is subject throughout the year.

Speaking about how farmers can best overcome these stresses and become ‘resilient’, Dr. Nollaig Heffernan, of Heffernan Consultancy, spoke about how best to become mentally resilient and how to approach difficult situations within the farming business.

Resilience is the ability to cope with stress, or excess stress in life according to the consultant. She explained that resilience can be developed through experience and training interventions, which can benefit any business.

“A dripping tap will wear a stone, so unfortunately stress can break anyone. Don’t get to that edge, actively work on this to make you more resilient, so it’s not just about making your cows or your grass more resilient, butt taking you as the key tool in your environment and making you shine, making you effective, ad you as resilient

“So, if you have a low milk price, if things are going wrong if you got a resilient business can cope when it’s a low milk price, you need that resilience in your head as well.

“When things are really tough, and things are all coming against you, you still need to be able to be productive and effective and actually most importantly to be a solid person for the other people around you in your business.”

Mental health stock

Family and Friends; A Strong Social Support Network

Having a strong social network of family or friends or preferably both, who are supportive and positive about endeavours dramatically increases an individual’s ability to cope, according to Nollaig.

Feeling alone and misunderstood magnifies stress and rapidly contributes to feelings of being overwhelmed, insecurity and eventual hopelessness, she said. Having a support network, or confidant is essential to keeping a level head, she explained.

“I read somewhere recently that you are the average of the five closest people around you. Of you surround yourself with positive people or negative people, you will conform to that norm.

“So be mindful of who you surround yourself with,” she told the room.

Uncompromising Focus

Knowing exactly what you want to achieve helps everyone get out of bed in the morning, especially the harder mornings, she explained. More importantly, having a ‘why you want it’ is essential to this vision, she said.

“It’s about looking at what are your values, what are you trying to achieve, or why are you trying to succeed. It’s about stepping back and asking what you really, really want, and making a plan to succeed.”

She said that it is important to note that resilient people constantly review what have they committed to make sure their focus is productively placed.


She said resilient people have the mentality when they approach a problem or difficult situation that ‘we’ve been through this before and we can get through it.”

Understanding transience, is being able to calmly resolve a problem and not have a ‘knee-jerk reaction’ to a situation, she explained.

“People that are mentally tough, understand that 2018 was a tough year but time moves on.”


Feeling ‘out of control’ of a situation greatly challenge our coping mechanisms, according to the consultant. She said the best way farmers can prepare for difficult situations is to educate themselves in the area they doubt themselves in.

“It might be through an academic approach, through experience or through self-awareness that we gain insight to allow us to cope better.”


She explained that we can either allow conditions to overwhelm us or get us down or we can choose to rethink how we view them by looking at the positives, opportunities or ‘silver lining’.

“While the less resilient dairy business or farmer will see the climate conditions of 2018 as excessively problematic or maybe even unsurmountable, resilient dairy entity will reflect on the year as a great learning opportunity to inform the business and make future years more robust and damage proof.”


In recent years, workplace happiness and well-being have been considered game changers by both businesses and governments, according to Nollaig.

“People who are happy work harder, work longer, have less illnesses and contribute more to the workplace and society.

“Enjoying what you do immunises you against the negative aspects of your work that left unchecked can become demoralising.”

(Source – Irish Independent – Indo Farming – Catherine Hurley – 02/02/2019)

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Rural Enterprise Skillnet
Rural Enterprise Skillnet

The Rural Enterprise Skillnet is funded by member companies and the Training Networks Programme, an initiative of Skillnets Ltd. funded from the National Training Fund through the Department of Education and Skills.

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